Now that I'm done ranting about how beautiful the writing is, I'm going to move on to the story itself. The plot is well-planned and draws the reader right in. When I started the book, read about ten or twenty pages, I wasn't sure whether I'd liked it and whether it would be something worth reading. This is because the background of the book involves Japanese culture and is set in "Japan". No offense to any writers, but I just find that generally Western authors don't have enough understanding of an Asian coutry to write well on stories involving Asian characters or culture. But Jay Kristoff, you really topped this. It's not about whether you have a perfect understanding or use of the Japanese language or whether everything in the book was perfectly correct; but it's about how hard you've tried create and portray this story, how much research you've done and how much understanding you have on what you want to write. Even though it is written in English, I've never once forgotten that I'm reading a story with a brave Japanese girl as the central character or I'm in a created world of Japan. The author skillfully weaves the colourful Japanese culture such as the language, clothing, weapons and symbols etc. into the writing. As soon as I decided that this book was worth my time, I read on and I never wanted to put it down until I finished. The plot was tight and set at a good pace, with suprises jumping out at turns. I wanted to know what happens next desperately. Thank you Jay Kristoff, for such an amazing story.
Honour is something discussed quite a lot in this book. I really liked the take Jay Kristoff took on the idea of honour. Japanese Samuris have a great capacity for honour and they hold it highly. However, in this book, it presents the question "what really is honour"? What kind of people really has honour and how much is honour really worth? Sometimes, there seems to be not much difference between honourable and stupid. The way Kristoff brings out this theme in relation to the setting/characters is thoughtful and interesting. I also really liked the use of Lotus in this book. Lotus is usually something pure and beautiful in Asian culture, but Kristoff twisted it so that the red Lotus (I don't think there's even red Lotus in real life?) becomes the root of all evil. It's contrasting yet interesting.
Now about the characters. I find all the characters in this book were unique. They are not your typical YA characters, especially the central character Yukiko. She is determined and brave. She is willing to stand up to things/people she believes are wrong and she is open to new information/ideas. At the same time, she is very realistic. She makes mistakes, find it hard to find forgiveness and has wild emotions. Even though she makes mistakes, she trys hard to right them and fight for what she believes in, for those she loves. She is full of strength yet shows her weakness.
I loved the thunder tiger! He is absolutely, hands down my favourite character in the book. He changes a great deal through the book. The affection/connection and trust he develops with Yukiko is something extremely valuable and sweet. His sarcasm and unexpected replies also makes me laugh a lot. He is willing to sacrifice himself for people he loves.
I didn't like Masaru at first. He struck me as a man who did not fit his tiltle of the great "Black Fox" of Shima. He gambles and drugs his life away. However, I then see the reason for his actions and his fierce protectiveness and love for his daughter. My attitude and opinion towards him changes dramatically through the course of this book.
Lastly, though it is almost perfect, there are somethings here and there that can be improved. The only thing I found a bit lacking was the use of Japanese. Some uses of the language are incorrect, e.g. "Hai" is not put at the end. And also there just seemed to be a little too much Japanese words in between the English. It sometimes makes it hard to read and understand. I think this is something Jay Kristoff can perhaps improve on for the next book.
The ending was sad yet satisfying. I like the way it ended, but wish I didn't have to say goodbye to a certain character. I'm vastly hooked into this story and am very very looking forward to the next book. To top it off, Stormdancer is a book I really would like to own. :)